An army regiment that responded to the Didcot Power Station collapse and the Manchester Arena bombing were honoured with a top military accolade.
The Firmin Sword of Peace, which commends military units for developing strong links within communities, was awarded to Didcot-based 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment at Blenheim Palace last week.
Amidst the splendour of the Woodstock World Heritage Site, 150 troops from each of the five squadrons from across the UK stood proudly on parade during the presentation ceremony.
The sword was handed over by Paul Spafford, the chief operating officer at sword makers Firmin, to Major General (Ret’d) David Shouesmith who presented the illustrious sword to Lance Corporal Andrew Cassidy from the Catterick-based 521 Squadron.
He received the blade on behalf of the whole Regiment in recognition of the unit’s actions in 2016.
The award reflects in particular the Regiment’s specialist search operations during the Didcot Power Station tragedy – Operation BRIDLED – as four men were killed when one of the boilerhouses partially collapsed in February 2016.
They also disposed of hazardous chemicals from school laboratories nationwide.
All of that is on top of their routine ‘shouts’ to make Second World War bombs safe. In total, they had 2,854 call outs in 2016.
The Regiment’s Commanding Officer, Lt Col Brian Howard, said: “Each operation had a huge impact on the local community, be it in Didcot or Bath or in secondary schools nationwide.
“The Regiment’s actions brought relief, hope, comfort and reassurance to the affected communities, and allowed people to carry on with their lives.”
When they were not on duty, members of the Regiment raised around £30,000 for various charities across the country.
Speaking of the part he played in receiving the sword on behalf of his Regiment, LCpl Cassidy, who was singled out as a key member, said: “It was a real honour and I’m very proud, everything that was said about me as an individual applies to the rest of the Regiment.
“I only found out 48 hours beforehand that I had been chosen so it was a huge surprise.”